Consultation on plans to replace tarmac with grass at Tooting Common

Published: Wednesday 29th July 15

The council has unveiled proposals that could see parts of a tarmac road through the middle of Tooting Common being replaced with grass, trees and plants.

The town hall is to consult people living near Tooting Common over plans to close Dr Johnson Avenue to through traffic and turn much of it into grassy open space. 

If the plans move forward much of Dr Johnson Avenue would be replaced with grass

If local people back the plans, the council will submit a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help pay for this transformation. The HLF is already heavily involved in a far reaching restoration project worth £325,000 to improve and enhance many of the common’s historical features.

Dr Johnson Avenue is a two way road that runs for a third of a mile between Tooting Bec Road and Hillbury Road. It separates Tooting Graveney Common from Tooting Bec Common – effectively splitting what’s more widely known as Tooting Common into two separate open spaces.

Returning Dr Johnson Avenue back to common land would effectively make the common bigger by creating a single green space and would provide a safer route for pedestrians and cyclists and provide new wildlife habitats.

The removal of vehicle traffic would also reduce carbon emissions on the common and result in a quieter and more tranquil open space.

A narrower section of highway would need to remain to permit access to the horticultural maintenance depot and to also provide a cycle path across this section of common. However other motor vehicles would not be permitted to use it.

While this current informal consultation is being conducted highway engineers will be carrying out a traffic study to evaluate the potential impact on other local roads if through traffic is banned from Dr Johnson Avenue.

If local residents and businesses back the plans at this stage, detailed traffic modelling results will be assessed before funding will be sought to implement the proposals. If Heritage Lottery funding is agreed, a formal public consultation will then be carried out to give local people the chance to comment on more detailed proposals.

To take part in the current informal consultation people are being urged to visit www.wandsworth.gov.uk/DrJ and answer a short series of questions and submit any other comments they may have.

Commenting on the plans the council’s environment and transport spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “It is important that local people tell us what they think of this idea.

“I personally favour replacing this tarmac with grass and trees and restoring the common as one open space without this unnecessary divide. I think it would be good for the local environment and good for people who love and use Tooting Common.

“However we do need to be mindful that these proposals could shift some additional traffic onto other roads in the area. That is why it is not only important to hear what local people think but that we also do some traffic modelling at this stage so that we have a better idea of the potential effects this change could have on the surrounding area.

“If we do get the public’s backing though and are satisfied that neighbouring roads do not suffer from an unreasonable impact then we will seek Heritage Lottery Fund approval and support to bring a little more green space to this part of Tooting.”

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Recent comments

I've lived in Balham for over twenty years and so would like to think I'm aware of all the useful local "Rat runs". Dr Johnson's avenue is NOT one of them, so please grass it over. I run round the park every weekend, with the dog, so reducing the need to clip on the lead by two also suits me. Why it was ever a tarmac through road in the first place beats me. It looks wrong from any angle, when things look wrong there is every chance they are wrong.
Geoff Bremner

18 January 2016

In principle this is a laudable proposal, however, the benefit of additional Common land should not be at the expense of significant reduction in the capacity of the surrounding road system to be able to accommodate diverted traffic. The environmental impact of vehicles idling whilst queuing to enter or exit local roads, as well as the noise impact on homes near local road junctions must be factored into considering this proposal.
Tony Edkins

3 October 2015

Excellent idea which I fully support. Turning roads back into green space is a sensible and a symbolic gesture to show that the motor car does not rule everything in our lives.
richard noutch

24 September 2015

I support but with the qualification that the loss of parking on Dr Johnson and the negative effects on Elmbourne Road must be taken into account in any implementation. Most of the negative comments posted are based on loss of convenience that would arise if Dr Johnson and the surrounding residential streets could no longer be used as a cut through to Balham High Road. It is possible to drive around the Common rather than through it; it adds about 3 minutes to the journey time from Furzedown.
PL

21 September 2015

The driver for closing Dr Johnsons Avenue is to make the common a safer and more usable space for the community, as part of the Tooting Common heritage project. Being a local resident I fully support this proposal
Marek Saykali

30 August 2015

What the photo with this article fails to show is what's hidden at the end of Dr Johnson Avenue - a great big cash cow called a public car park which the Council are itching to get their hands on and will do if their plan to de-traffic the Avenue goes ahead. This is not an environmental issue at all - the money is all the Council is interested in because they haven't had the courage to increase the council tax, for risk of losing votes, and so have had to resort to these underhand methods to boost their revenue. Let this scheme through and others will follow, stop it and the Council might just get the message – enough is enough!
Rob

17 August 2015

I am in favour of Dr Johnson Avenue being closed to Traffic. This road is not particularly well used and the increase in green space is to be welcomed.
Peter Norman

16 August 2015

I appreciate there would be some benefits for cyclists but not enough to warrant all the problems it would cause other users. I don't think the affects of alternative car routes have been considered and until they are then this shouldn't happen, sorry! I do think users of the car park should be charged for stays over 3 hours and measures taken to prevent commuters using it if there's a problem.
Sue pearsom

16 August 2015

After reading previous comments, several things are apparent - cyclists and pedestrians are largely in favour while most motorists are not. I am a pedestrian and driver. I have never found it difficult to cross the Avenue as a pedestrian - there are simply not that many cars preventing crossing. But to close it off to drivers would inevitably lead to congestion to traffic around the whole area. The junction at Elmbourne Road and Tooting Bec Road, already awkward and even dangerous for drivers, would become even more so - money should be spent on improving this. The derelict pond area at this corner is crying out for redevelopment - why has this site been neglected for so long? The Council should spend money on more worthwhile projects.
GEORGE LOBLEY

15 August 2015

I regularly use Dr Johnsons Avenue. Closing the road would be a disaster, as the volume of traffic on Tooting Bec Road and Bedford Hill will rise. Specifically there would be significant traffic jams at the junction of Tooting Bec Road and Elmbourne Road. Thus slowing down the flow of traffic moving in both directions along Tooting Bec Road. At the moment when there are events on the common, and the car park is full traffic is able to park on the road. Without this facility people will be forced to park their cars on the surrounding residential roads. The fact that there is a road separating the common makes it stand out in my mind as a unique feature of it.
Anthony Soalla-Bell

13 August 2015

Cars go slowly down this road because of the bumps. Remove those and the cars and you are left with a speed track for cyclists. Pedestrians don't use the road, they walk on the common. Traffic pushed on to other roads causing more pollution as cars back up waiting to get on to main road. Surely better things to spend money on?
Margaret Shaw

7 August 2015

A positive idea for the common (I hope others follow). Bedford Hill should absorb the traffic but maybe some traffic calming measures should be considered in Elmbourne rd to ensure that there is no impact to this road.
Oscar Valle

5 August 2015

I too live on Elmbourne road and I'm supportive. Closing Dr Johnson avenue can only be a positive thing for the stretch of Elmbourne road from Dr Johnsons to Bedford hill, this part of the road is far too narrow for the volume of traffic, causing frustration for drivers and making it dangerous for everyone else.
SARA PASSIGATO

5 August 2015

Another stupid idea from the car hating intelligentsia currently in power at Wandsworth Council.
UY

5 August 2015

I've tried to comment before but I'm unsure if it went through. This is a dreadful idea; it will lead to much greater traffic congestion on Elmbourne Road, more pollution and, most importantly, it will increase the risk of serious accidents at the junction of Elmbourne and Tooting Bec Roads. I live near the junction and even now I often see drivers on Elmbourne Road, spooked by other impatient drivers behind them, making dangerous right turns onto Tooting Bec Road.
John Leaver

4 August 2015

As a local resident in Elmbourne Road I strongly object to the proposal This wil only push all cars onto Elmbourne Rd and the effect will be disastrous , current levels of traffic congestion are bad at present at weekends as a resident I struggle to find a parking space outside my house no 48. If cars are banned from Dr Johnson Ave at peak times specifically school runs Elmbourne Road will have unacceptable levels of traffic congestion and be used as a rat run for cars used to driving across Dr Johnson from Balham towards Streatham and towards Croydon / Brighton Elmborne Rd is very dangerous at present as despite the 20 miles speed limit it is in general ignored by Drivers cutting across from Bedford Hill to Tooting Bec Rd.
MARIE SYMINGTON DUNNE

3 August 2015

Great idea to grass this over, we have young children and cross this road regularly, it would be great if it was all part of the common instead of a road
Julian Musson

2 August 2015

Fully supportive. Remove the aggression of cars from Tooting Common and let this Common be as great as it can be. A safe area of grass from Tooting Bec road to Bedford hill which the whole community can enjoy.
Belinda Bould

2 August 2015

Very good idea
C.R.Gregson

2 August 2015

I am very much in favour of closing Dr Johnson Avenue as suggested. It will make the common less segmented and the parts seem like traffic islands.
Nicholas Martin

2 August 2015

The closure of Doctor Johnson Avenue without an alternative solution for dealing with the loss of this additional Furzedown/Balham migration route will definitely result in NEGATIVE support from me. However widening half of Elmbourne Road west of Manville to allow simultaneous left and right turns at a new wider roundabout managed junction with Tooting Bec Road may cater for the loss of Doctor Johnson Ave and a change in my opinion.
Alaba

2 August 2015

I am not a driver and I object the project. Ideally the common would look better without a road cutting through it but removing the avenue would cause more congestion and traffic on tooting bec road. I would suggest to add a safer pedestrian passage between one part of the common and the other ( right now it is quite dangerous to cross the street) and I strongly recommend to use the rest of the public money to restore that dirty, dangerous and unkept area next to the franciscan road entrance.
Elena

1 August 2015

This is the most ludicrous proposal I have heard about in a long time. Use any money from the Heritage Fund for improving areas of the common which have been neglected. Clear the areas with stinging nettles and rubbish! The area near Tooting Bec which I think used be a pond area is completely neglected. Why not have a picnic area or a new children's play area or something for older kids for skateboarding or roller skating or fitness. I will be involved in any demonstrations or protests against this as I feel it is completely wrong!!!
Sonia Forde

1 August 2015

AN INTERSTING PROPOSAL. I WOULD ONLY BE IN FAVOUR IF THE SLIGHTLY ENLARGED COMMON HAD MORE SHRUBS OR TREES PLANTED - IT IS SO BARE AND WIDSWEPT OVER MUCH OF THE CENTRAL AREA. WHY NOT GO THE WHOLE HOG AND JOIN THE MAIN COMMON AREA TO TOOTING GRAVENEY COMMON TO THE SOUTH OF TOOTING BEC ROAD? - ONLY JOKING! THE CURRENT PROPOSAL WOULD HOWEVER IMPACT ON TRAFFIC FLOW IN THE IMMEDIATE VICINITY, PROBABLY CAUSING A NOTICEABLE INCREASE IN ELMBOURNE ROAD AND HILLBURY ROAD IN PARTICULAR AS TRAFFIC WOULD BE UNABLE TO GET FROM TOOTING BEC ROAD TO BEDFORD HILL VIA DR JOHNSON AVENUE. THIS NEEDS TO BE THOUGHT OUT CAREFULLY. I AM A PEDESTRIAN AND CAR DRIVER WHO REGULARLY CROSSES THE COMMON TO GET TO BALHAM OR DRIVES VIA ELMBOURNE ROAD SO I SEE WHAT OCCURS
GEORGE LOBLEY

1 August 2015

great idea. more pleasant for all using the common. great to have cycle path and perhaps running track with marked distances across the common. but could the money be better spent?
ig

1 August 2015

I think Dr Johnson Avenue should remain as it is. It is a vital link for those travelling to Balham and it cuts the journey times a lot. Without it the traffic will increase on Tooting Bec Road (and pollution as well) as the only other option is right turn into Elmbourne Avenue (this will create long queue probably all the way back to Streatham).To be honest council should think of a one way system all the way from Streatham to Wandsworth roundabout along Tooting Bec Road and Trinity Road for northbound traffic and from Wandsworth roundabout to Streatham along Spencer Park, Bolingbroke Grove, St James's Drive, Upper Tooting Park, Ritherdon Road and Bedford Hill (or Trinity Crescent, Ritherdon Road and Bedford Hill) for southbound traffic.
Chris

31 July 2015

Quite unnecessary. More traffic on Elmbourne Rd will cause major tail backs approaching Tooting Bec Rd-- bad enough at peak times now. Where are people to park who use the common now? Why not leave things as they are? Such action merely makes traffic management more complex.
Patton

31 July 2015

I agree with grassing over Dr Johnson Avenue but why spoil it by making a cycle track? Bicycles traveling at speed can be just as dangerous as motor traffic traveling over humps! Do the thing properly and ban all traffic going through the common.
Peter Haynes

31 July 2015

Is this supposed to be some sort of compensation for building a road on Putney Common?
David Seymour

31 July 2015

A great idea but can you advise on the costs so we can determine if it is a good use of public money.
RAHUL MOODGAL

31 July 2015

A great idea but is it a good use of public money, I am not convinced
Simon

31 July 2015

Yes it would be a nice idea, making the common safer for children and dogs. It won't do anything for wildlife though unless the grass is kept as rough grass or shrub land. If it's just flat mown grass it's no use at all, so please don't try to pretend to the public that there would be a wildlife benefit.
jenny knight

31 July 2015

I think this would be a great idea - no other common has a big road going through the middle of it. I don't think the traffic impact will be that large either and will add benefit to the common. Also will be much better for dog walkers and children without having to worry that they will run in the road.
Jemma Dunn

31 July 2015

I back this proposal, especially if combined with efforts to get people out of their cars and onto bicycles and public transport. Why does anyone who is not disabled need to drive along a route which they could probably traverse faster by tube or bike? Or even by bus, at times when the bus lanes are in operation and not full of parked cars.
Sue Brearley

31 July 2015

An afterthought, it would be better for the Council to do something about cleaning up the dodgy Elmbourne Road & Trinity Road corner. They once started to develop it but abandoned it to allow it to deteriorate into a very unkempt and unsafe area. Now it's a haven for drunks, drug takers other low-lifes, making it very unsafe for others. The pathways and boardwalk are all overgrown and it is awash with unsightly and unseemly litter. Let's clean up what is there and not introduce distractions like the abolishment of the Dr Johnson Avenue.
Dave Sprocket

31 July 2015

Cynical behaviour by Council to ameliorate destruction of established trees and shrubs and adding tarmacing to Battersea Park for the annual Formula E races. A waste of money, better spent on removing tarmacing and re-establishing greenery removed for this questionable event. What's the need for an additional strip of grass and plants on Tooting Bec? It's fine as it is, dividing Dr Johnson Avenue is no inconvenience, providing a useful road for motorists wishing to pass from one side of the Common to the other. Take that away and traffic would seek alternative and more annoying ways to do so, so clogging up other streets.
Denis Waugh

31 July 2015

Sorry but this is just daft. The traffic in the roads that would be affected would worsen, forcing drivers to take longer detours and get stuck in traffic for longer. The traffic in all the area is already pretty bad, closing roads will contribute to make it worse, anybody conversant with how flows of any kind move understands that removing a route increases pressure and clogs the remaining routes. The funny thing is that that road has been such for ages, so talking about "returning it to the common" must be harping back to goodness knows which time in the past (the Romans? :-) )
Don Atello

31 July 2015

I think this is a bad idea. This proposal would be very inconvenient - and I agree with other posts that it would turn the junction of Elmbourne and Tooting Bec Roads, which is already congested, into a real nightmare. Another poster said 'the convenience of car access is not a legitimate concerning '; I disagree: if the proposal results in more congestion, more pollution and more bad driving caused by drivers panicked by impatient followers into making dangerous turns - which happens a lot now - then it absolutely is a legitimate concern.
John Leaver

30 July 2015

We are currently looking to move to Tooting with my family (1 toddler and 1 newborn) We strongly believe that closing Dr Johnson Avenue to traffic and replqce it with grass would enhance the common, making it a bigger usable space for the community and keeping traffic noise and pollution to a minimum.
Elli-Anna Papanikolaou

30 July 2015

Absolutely my last comment on the subject. The OS map of 1805 clearly shows that Dr Johnson Avenue [formerly The Avenue] was a more major thoroughfare at the time than either Tooting Bec Road or the section of Bedford Hill which crosses the common. On that basis I think the proposal should be to 'incorporate' Dr Johnson Avenue into common land and not 'return Dr Johnson Avenue to common land'. The present wording is misleading, suggesting the Avenue is not a historical feature of the common when - in fact - it dates from way back.
Wanda Pratt

30 July 2015

Of course it is a good investment to improve our green space. The convenience of car access is not a legitimate concern. Efforts to close Bedford Hill where it crosses the common should also be considered. It also should be possible with time and planning and co-operation from British Rail to offer a green trackside walk between Tooting and Wandsworth Commons. This 'green highway' is already used by wildlife.
Ed Jason

30 July 2015

Correction to previous comment - when I wrote 'Hillbury Road', of course I meant 'Elmbourne Road'. Senior moment! If the Avenue is closed, the junction of Elmbourne Road and Tooting Bec Road would be a nightmare.
wanda pratt

30 July 2015

Would the greening of the Avenue be a 'restoration' or a new move? Ought to be clearer. It's always been a road in my lifetime - and I remember the post-war prefabs! I use the Avenue regularly and would have to change the route I take, probably using Hillbury Road down to Tooting Bec Road. That's a horrible junction if you're waiting to join the main road. I think it would have to be altered to allow traffic to enter off Hillbury Road controlled by traffic lights. Otherwise, Hillbury Road would back up awfully.
Wanda Pratt

30 July 2015

I object to this idea. It is not a wise thing to do, and I believe it will be money wasted. It will create traffic chaos, this is a route many use to go to and back from work, it helps ease congestion, helps with traffic flow, parking, it is nice to look and drive past. I do not see how this will benefot anyone in any way. I think it will be a silly idea and anything that will make traffic worse is definitely not a wise move. I do not see why the council would waste their money to carry this out that will cause chaos. In london it is difficult to travel, especially driving, this will make matters even worse! I am strongly against this.
Azim Ahmed

30 July 2015

I for one think this is a very bad idea. It will cause a massive bottleneck of traffic at the junction of Elmbourne Road and Tooting Bec Road, which will back up in both directions especially at peak times. It will force more traffic down Garrads Road, which will probably back up in all directions, down Tooting Bec Road northbound, and Ambleside Avenue back to Mitcham Lane and beyond
Finlay Morton

30 July 2015

Contrary to some views, vehicles do NOT race down Dr Johnson avenue as it is in the 20 MPH zone and has had numerous constructed road humps for years. It is NOT a rat run, as per it's aforementioned characteristics and I have never witnessed traffic behaviour of this nature in 17 years of living here. It is a busy road only during the morning and afternoon week day rush hours. Traffic would be diverted onto other adjacent roads to circumnavigate the common creating substantial congestion and bottle necks, especially during weekday rush hours. My opinion is therefore NOT IN FAVOUR of this proposal.
CLAIRE BAMFORD

30 July 2015

This is a very positive proposal which I support
John Valentine

30 July 2015

A fantastic idea. This is a difficult road to cross due to the trees each side reducing visibility. A joined up larger continuous area of common land would benefit wildlife and recreational users as well as reducing pollution levels on the common. The sooner this goes ahead the better.
J Hudson

30 July 2015

I have lived in Furzedown for some 30 years and regularly use Dr Johnson Avenue as my 'cut-through' to get to Balham and the Bedford Hill area. My obvious replacement for this, should Dr Johnson Avenue be closed, would be Elmbourne Road, which I currently avoid because it is narrow and because there are already traffic queues there. If it would be possible to make Elmbourne Avenue more car-friendly (by widening it, for example), then it would seem to me that much of the inconvenience to drivers, who use Dr Johnson Avenue in a similar way to me, would be minimised.
Tim Kahn

30 July 2015

This would be incredible - a massive boost to get less cars on the road and a safer place for children, runners, cyclists and pedestrians. A big yes from me.
Megan Morgan

29 July 2015

I think it would be a positive thing if Dr Johnson Avenue was dug up and returned as common land. I fully support the idea.
Graham Owen

29 July 2015

this is a wonderful idea. Cars race down Dr Johnson avenue and it's so so dangerous. I see family's perilously trying to cross to the other side of the common and it's so dangerous. its a terrible rat run which blights the common and it's only getting worse
Natalia Saykali

29 July 2015

An excellent idea. It would greatly enhance the common.
Hugh Lockhart-Ball

29 July 2015

Sublime idea! Boulevard of trees with a footpath & cycle path all the way through it.
Gill Allen

29 July 2015

I would back this plan to make the common safer for current users, especially children playing next to what has become an increasingly busy cut-through. As a cyclist, I would also welcome this. Environmentally, I can only imagine this would improve the health of the local wildlife and users of the common.
JAN WAD

29 July 2015

Tooting Bec Common is a common ground for local people to enjoy the open space for recreational and sport activities. The rise of Tooting and Balham as an affluent area has caused considerable local and through traffic on Dr Johnson Avenue and the short road is often severely congested and used as a rat-run for commuting motorists. Quite often mothers with pushchairs find it difficult crossing from one section of the common to the other. Bringing these two sections together again will liberate this well used section of the common.
Martin Ireland

29 July 2015